Ganesh Chaturthi: Lord Ganesh adored by Hindus and across India

White elephant statue of Ganesh from side view

A statue of Ganesha. Photo by Preshit Deorukhkar, courtesy of Flickr

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17: The scent of sweet modak treats and the sight of thousands of colorful, detailed elephant-type figures signal that Ganesha Chaturthi has arrived in India.

And do we have a treat for you this week! Hindu scholar, writer and activist Padma Kuppa writes a guest column in FeedTheSpirit this week, sharing her perspective on the holiday. And, Padma includes a delicious, traditional recipe as well. She includes in this column additional links to learn more about the holiday and its beloved foods.

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the grandest, most beloved and longest festivals of India, and the Hindu god Ganesha is honored during this time, known also as Vinayaka Chaturthi. For 10 days—until Anant Chaturdashi—many Jain, Christian and Muslim families across India join Hindus in celebrating the event. Images of Ganesha are temporarily installed in public pandals (shrines) and in homes, and worshipped for several days, until they are taken to a local body of water and immersed.

Did you know? Lord Ganesha is believed to be the giver of fortune and one who can remove all obstacles to success.

Months before Ganesh Chaturthi, artists mold models of the elephant-god. Figures may range in size from less than one inch to almost 100 feet, most of them made of clay, Plaster-of-Paris, papier-mache or organic materials. In many areas of India, artists and industries earn a considerable portion of their yearly income preparing for Ganesh Chaturthi. (Wikipedia has details.)  Some regions host fairs, concerts, skits and dancing during the festival. Where an image of Ganesh is installed, the surrounding area is decorated with floral garlands, lights and more. Priests chant mantras to invoke Ganesha’s presence into the statues.

THE ENVIRONMENT AND GANESH OUTSIDE OF INDIA

Pink elephant statue with bangles, gold and fancy painted clothes

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Though clay models used to be the primary material of Ganesh figures, demand and price led to the use of Plaster-of-Paris, which is not biodegradable. When Plaster-of-Paris Ganesh statues were immersed into water—also covered in chemical paints that contain heavy metals—water pollution began threatening the environment and statues began washing up onto sandy beaches. In response, green initiatives have been launched across India. In Goa, the sale of Ganesh figures made of PoP was banned and a return to traditional clay or reusable figures is growing in popularity. In some areas, pools are set up for the safe immersion of statues.

Tens of thousands of Hindus in the UK publicly observe Ganesh Chaturthi, from Paris to London and beyond. In the U.S., temples and associations mark the festival, and the Philadelphia Ganesh Festival (PGF) is the largest Hindu festival in North America. Ganesha is also celebrated across Canada, in Malaysia and Singapore and in Indian populations around the world.

RECIPES, NEWS & MORE

Want a visual take on Ganesh Chaturthi? The Economic Times pictured artists and adherents preparing for the 2015 festival. The Telegraph has a slideshow of photos of past events, featuring adherents from India to Paris to Tennessee. A YouTube video of Ganesh celebrations can be viewed here.

Bollywood and cinema has an undeniable impact on holidays India, and this year, the Blockbuster hit “Baahubali—the Beginning” has an actor whose portrait is being imitated in countless Ganesh statues. A poster from the movie, which features character Prabhas carrying shiva Linga on his shoulder, has been the inspiration for Lord Ganesh statues that feature a muscular elephant-god carrying shiva Linga on his own shoulder. (ibTimes has the story.) Television actor Raqesh Vashishth has also been hard at work for this Ganesh Chaturthi, meticulously carving his own statue of Ganesha. (Indian Express reported.) Via Instagram, Raqesh shared videos of himself making the figure.

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